Houston finally starts its season, a week later due to Hurricane Harvey, as the Cougars travel to Arizona. The Wildcats are a lower tier PAC 12 team, hoping to rebound from a three win 2016. Rich Rodriguez is clearly on the hot seat, and a win over Houston may help the heat to subside. A few keys to the game:
Maintain Your Rep
Houston's built a reputation from knocking off Power 5's, ask Florida State, Louisville, and Houston. The Cougars are riding a four game winning streak over Power five schools. Even though Arizona isn't in the class of an FSU or Oklahoma, the Wildcats are still in that company. The Cougars also need to get the Major Applewhite era off on the right foot. Houston laid an egg in Applewhite's first game last season, the Las Vegas Bowl, look for a better effort Saturday night.
Can Houston Get Kyle Allen Going Early?
Houston may have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in college football with Kyle Allen and his top targets. Linell Bonner put together one of the best receiving seasons in the country last year with 98 catches. Steven Dunbar caught 53 passes as well. The marriage of Allen and Applewhite is one we're very excited to see. After taking all of 2016 off, it's important that the Houston quarterback get the rust off early.
New Coordinator, Same 3rd Ward D?
A lot of eyes will be on Houston Defensive Coordinator Mark D'Onofrio on Saturday night. One of the most innovative offensive coaches in recent memory leads the Wildcats, and their run based spread will cause problems, but they're one dimensional. The Cougars ran for 506 yards vs. Northern Arizona last Saturday, but quarterback Brandon Dawkins has yet to show a propensity for throwing the ball. Last season he completed less than 54% of his passes and had almost as many picks as touchdowns. If Arizona is to move the ball, it'll be on the ground, right into the teeth of a Houston defense that allowed less than three yards per rush in 2016, second only to Alabama. Defensive coaches will always say that stopping the run is a priority; however Saturday night it is essential for Houston. D'Onofrio takes over for Todd Orlando and will need to show that things haven't changed in 3rd Ward.
Notes and Numbers
Applewhite debuts as the 14th head coach in Houston Football History.
Houston is tied with TCU for most wins since 2014, 30.
This season could give the Cougars a program best five season streak of eight or more wins.
Houston and Arizona are meeting for the first time since 1986.
Overall the series is tied at 1 win a piece with Arizona winning in '86 and Houston won in 1969.
83 members of Arizona's 120 man roster are freshman or sophomores.